Monday, June 30, 2014

Why Running is Better than Baseball

I spent Saturday evening at the Western States finish line, via Twitter. (So impressed with Stephanie Howe's win in her 100 mile debut!) In reality, I was at an El Paso Chihuahuas baseball game.

I'm going to be honest: this was only my second baseball spectating experience ever, and I was mainly there for the food and the fellowship (it was a church outing). The food was delicious. The fellowship was wonderful. The baseball? Well, at first it was exciting. Until...

The ninth inning ended with a tie. And then the tenth inning followed suit. And the eleventh. And the twelfth. After thirteen innings, the Chihuahuas lost 15-12 to the Tacoma Rainiers. We were already gone, though, because the twelfth inning took us past midnight, at which I turn into a pumpkin zombie.

Being a runner, I was totally unprepared for the possibility that the game could continue indefinitely. There's no such thing as overtime in running (unless maybe you get lost). When the race is over, the race is over. And there's something to be said for that. To me, infinite possible innings is the equivalent of the race director announcing at the start, "This is supposed to be a fifty mile race. But who knows, the course could be five to ten, even fifteen miles longer. Good luck!"

But baseball wins the concession stands category. Food is the one area where running could take a few notes. If we also supplied our spectators with slushies, gourmet hot dogs, and churros, maybe spectating running could become the next American pastime!

All in all, it was a fun night. But I remain extremely glad my sport is running.

Friday, June 27, 2014

Friday Five: The Best Things All Week

Good reading/watching on the web this week.

1. Alysia Montano, 34 weeks pregnant in the 800 meter National Championships, running faster than most of us can hope to run while not pregnant. You go, girl! This makes me so happy.

2. This Runner's World article about the benefits of exercise during pregnancy. My husband sent me the link this week, on a day I really needed some running encouragement. The study correlated exercise during pregnancy and weight control, which sounds kind of obvious, but I'll take any encouragement I can get to keep exercising!

3. Western States this weekend! Loving all the pre-race interviews at iRunFar.

4. This article on bear safety while trail running. Depending on where you live, run, and race, bear safety may not be anything you worry about, but the video is worth watching (warning: strong language). I was terrified for these guys!

5. An interesting point of view on enjoying running. I've (almost) always been a runner who just loves running, as well as training for and competing in races. But I loved reading how he stays motivated, and I think his tips are great for those who don't always love it but wish they did.

Bonus. Not a "best thing." In my opinion, a worst thing: The New York State Court of Appeals struck down NYC's ban on soda's larger than 16 ounces. As the empty calories and high sugar content of drinks like soda are a huge contributor to obesity and diabetes, the ban was a step toward helping consumers make healthier choices. (And if you really needed more soda than that, you could always buy two). Read about it at NPR and Marion Nestle's Food Politics blog.

Thursday, June 26, 2014

We Need A Running Channel

I don't watch much television. OK, I don't watch any, because we have neither cable, satellite, nor local channels in our home. Just Netflix. But I guarantee you I would watch the heck out of a  channel dedicated to running. I would even be willing to pay for channels I neither need nor want, just to get The Running Channel. Which would make the husband happy, because it would probably come in the same package as all thirty ESPN channels and the College Football Network.

This occurred to me today as I got excited for iRunFar's live coverage of Western States this weekend. Yes, I'm this excited about following via Twitter a race happening over a thousand miles away. It's the sole reason I joined Twitter. And it works pretty well for this sort of coverage. But how much more exciting--and inspiring--would it be to see it all on TV?

Imagine: A race you can't make it to? An event you've always wanted to run? Or one you're planning to run next year? Well, finish up your Saturday long-run, pull on your recovery compression socks, prop up your feet, and grab the remote. Prepare to be motivated. Bonus: Course reconnaissance from the comfort of your couch.

The great thing about running is its variety and ubiquity. The Running Channel wouldn't just be an Ultrarunning Channel, or a Track and Field Channel. It would cover all sorts of events, from the obscure to the prominent, in all kinds of places. And it would feature mid-packers and ordinary, inspiring humans as well as elite leaders.

Someone please make this happen!

Friday, June 20, 2014

Friday Five: What I'm Looking Forward To

As I'm getting closer and closer to having this baby (even when it still feels like I'm going to be pregnant forever), these are the things I find myself dreaming about.

5. Crunches, planks, and pushups. I don't mean it in a vain way, but I really can't wait to work on my abs, and actually feel them working. I feel like I haven't used them in forever--they don't help me sit up at all anymore.

4. Pumping some iron. Strength training has long been something I've struggled with, doing only the minimum, and only when I feel like it. No more! Back in February, I posted about a maximal strength training article on iRunFar which inspired me to give it a shot. I plan to follow through on that and join my husband in our garage twice a week for some heavy (for me) lifting.

3. Training for a race. Nearly a year of not having a race on the horizon will end up benefitting my training. I'm going to be so excited to have a plan and a goal, and so grateful, that for once, motivation shouldn't be a problem!

2. Running long. Long runs are the part of training I miss most (speed work is a close second, and I never thought I'd say that). Really long runs might require more planning ahead now that I'll have a baby in the mix, but that will make me appreciate them even more.

1. Meeting our daughter. More than anything related to running, fitness, or getting my body back (though those things will be wonderful!), I simply can't wait to meet our little girl. What will she look like? Whose personality will she have? When I think about these things, I realize just how much of a miracle motherhood is, and how blessed I am to be a part of it.

Thursday, June 19, 2014

Diversity in Trail Running: If You Build It, They Will Run

When I saw this month's Trail Runner Magazine blog symposium topic, my thought process was initially thus:

1) I don't know how diverse the trail running community currently is.
2) I don't really know how to go about finding that out. Do races even track demographics? I don't think I have ever been asked my ethnicity on a race entry form.
3) Like running in general, there are probably more men than women participating, but not drastically so.
4) I'm not sure I have anything interesting to say about diversity in trail running.

But I realize diversity is about more than just race and gender. It can be related to geography, and it struck me that access to trails is probably the biggest obstacle to a more diverse trail running community. So maybe I can comment on it after all.

I grew up in a running family, but in a small south Texas town where running was not extremely popular and trail running not at all. Why? Because we had no trails.

When I was in fourth grade, my parents became the resident caretakers of a brand-new local outdoor education center. And suddenly, I had trails to run on: several miles through trees, fields, and alongside a creek. It was great. I had a better place to run than anyone else in town, and to this day I'm grateful for that.

But trail running in my community and wider region didn't suddenly explode because we got a few trails. Our high school cross country meets ran through our town's scenic riverside park, but it was not uncommon for us to travel to urban meets at which the course wound through a parking lot or around a soccer field and golf course.

Cross country meets in other places = amazing.

When I ran cross country in college and traveled to meets run on actual trails, I was awed. When I moved to College Station and met runners who spent their Saturdays on the trails at nearby Lick Creek Park, I was inspired, and soon did the same myself.

My first non-cross country trail race was an Oktoberfest 10K at Fort Benning, Georgia. It was a blast, and I was hooked. But almost immediately, I learned trail races were much, much harder to come by than road races. Even here in El Paso, home of the largest urban park in the nation, there is not a wide offering of trail races.

El Paso Puzzler Trail Marathon 2013 at Franklin Mountains State Park

The point: people without access to trails have a very hard time becoming trail runners, and people without access to trail races are missing out on (in my opinion) the best kind of racing. And the trail running community is missing out on them.

Efforts to increase diversity in trail running can be two-fold:
1) To push for the development of trails in all kinds of places--urban areas, suburbs, small towns, rural areas without many recreation options. Trails are a given in scenic areas and in cities with high densities of outdoor enthusiasts. But by developing trails everywhere, people in all cities have the chance to become enthusiasts themselves.

2) To encourage running on those trails. More trail races would help, as well as training groups, educational events at running stores, and placing user-friendly maps and information online and on location.

Increasing the number of trails, trail races, and as a result, increasing diversity, will look different in different places. It can start with each of us. Have trails in your area but no races? At your next road race, compliment the director on a well-executed event and then express your interest in races on your local trails. Or start a race yourself. Have no trails in your area? Get involved in local politics, civic organizations, and conservation groups (or start your own) and share your trail vision with anyone who will listen!

Monday, June 16, 2014

36 Weeks: Looking Ahead

I made it to 36 weeks, still running! (Nothing spectacular, I ran a pretty slow two miles this morning).  Getting this far was my (sort-of secret) goal all along. I wasn't going to be devastated if I had to stop earlier, but I really hoped to still be able to run at this point.

These days I run entirely by feel, beginning each run with the mentality that even one mile will be enough, and there is absolutely no shame in stopping if I need to. This was a hard place for me to get to mentally, and I'll be honest: some days it's still really discouraging to have to call it quits after a mile. But most days I'm okay with where I'm at and so grateful to still be running. Because I look like this:

Admittedly not the largest 36-weeks-pregnant lady ever, but large enough that complete strangers are no longer afraid to comment on my condition. Yesterday at church and lunch afterward, several strangers (and the entire waitstaff of Red Lobster) wished my husband happy Father's Day in advance. It was really sweet.

And it's starting to feel so real: in a few weeks, I'm actually going to have this baby. I'm not going to be pregnant forever!

With that in mind, it has started to feel more acceptable to do the sort of looking ahead I've been doing all along. At the beginning, finding races was solely a way to motivate myself to keep running, even when it was hard, even when the short distances didn't feel worth the effort. Now, these race possibilities are starting to feel like they will actually happen.

We are moving to Georgia in the fall, so my search area has been the Georgia-Alabama-Tennessee area rather than the West Texas-New Mexico area. A change of location is always exciting, but I'll be sad to leave El Paso, especially the wonderful friends we've made. And the dry climate.

The list of races sits on my desk for daily motivation.

These six events are possibilities and options, not anything I'm absolutely determined to run. I hope to manage at least one, maybe two of them. After all, I have yet to see what returning to ultra-training as a first-time (hopefully nursing) mom will be like. But right now, its amazing what kind of motivation I find in hoping and dreaming about running them.

They range from 50ks in late November/early December (Tranquility Lake, Duncan Ridge, Bell Ringer), to races with longer options in late December through March (Lookout Mountain, Pistol Ultra, The Running Dead 100). I have no idea which races will be feasible because I don't know yet what my recovery and return to training and racing timeline will look like, other than that I plan to be cautious to avoid injury, but I can't wait to get started!

Friday, June 13, 2014

Training and Prepping

Preparing to give birth is like training for a race. A race of unknown duration and date. A race that could technically happen any day now but probably won't happen for another few weeks. A race for which the prize is probably going to wake you up at all hours of the night, indefinitely.

Unknowns aside, the preparation really is similar to the lead-up to a race. You read up on the course and plan your strategy and listen, rapt, to other people's experiences and are so, so grateful when those stories are encouraging rather than horrific. Your training plan consists of Kegel exercises, stretching, yoga, practicing breathing, and getting as much light-to-moderate cardio as your compressed lungs and taxed ligaments can handle at this point. You make a playlist of high-energy songs on your iPod.

It's also like prepping, in the sense of the word survivalists mean when they refer to hoarding countless rolls of toilet paper, boxes of ramen, and means of water purification in their reinforced underground bunkers against the zombiepocalypse, or whatever kind of -pocalypse they fear most.

I'm usually firmly on the minimalist side when it comes to stuff: if I don't have it, I can probably do without it until I can get to the store. (My cooking often suffers from sub-par substitutions for this reason). I hate clutter more than I like to feel extremely prepared. Especially because we are moving a couple months after my due date; I don't want to acquire even more stuff to pack up. The husband, on the other hand, subscribes more to the prepper mentality: he would rather have it and not need it than need it and not have it. Which explains the stores of ramen and Backpacker's Pantry in our house. It's okay, we complement each other.

But adding a baby to the mix has brought me around (ever so slightly) to his way of thinking. I have no idea when (if?) I'm going to feel like grocery shopping after the baby. Or cooking. So I would rather have that extra toilet paper taking up my whole bathroom cabinet than wish I didn't have to shower and put on clothes and drag myself out of the air conditioning to get some. I would rather have six homemade meals in the freezer than have to throw something together at the last minute or order a pizza.

So this is what my to-do list looks like right now:

It's all on one page so I won't keep losing them like I have been. We have almost everything we need for baby, but there is a ton of stuff I feel like we need to stock up on so we don't have to rush out and buy it late at night. And I want to put together several healthy meals to freeze so there will always be something to eat.

Am I actually doing any of this right now? Not really. I'm pinning freezer recipes on Pinterest and searching for winter ultras.

I'll get to most of it, I'm sure. But if I don't, that will be okay too. Because just like in a long race, you can be as prepared as possible for every scenario you can imagine...and one will pop up that you didn't imagine. And you'll get through it, with a little bit of flexibility and a whole lot of support from your crew.

Monday, June 2, 2014

A Four-Mile Long Run

The post title makes me laugh, but with joy. Five weeks ago, I ran four miles and spent the rest of the day (and the next) with the worst round ligament pain I've yet experienced. I hobbled around, and even standing for long enough to cook dinner felt uncomfortable. Since then, I had limited my runs to two or three miles, thinking anything longer was off the table until after the baby arrives.

That is, until today.

Despite the fact that current El Paso temps are hitting 104 and higher in the afternoons, this morning was cool (cool becomes a relative term in Texas in the summer), and I felt great heading out for a three-miler. Halfway through, I started to consider going for four, and decided to give it a try. If I felt bad, I could always stop.

But I didn't feel bad, and several hours later, I still don't. I have about the same level of round ligament pain I've been having: some discomfort, but not enough to keep me on the couch. I'm so happy! Even though it takes me a few tries to get up from a sitting position sometimes, and I often get winded walking up stairs, it's nice to know I can still run four miles. I can't wait until my long runs are actually long runs again, but right now, I'll take it!

Today I planned to start washing everything in the nursery: cloth diapers, clothes, blankets, tiny towels and washcloths. I still plan to, but I'm really wishing that nesting urge everyone talks about would hit me so that it sounds fun. Or at least urgent. With six weeks to go, it feels so close, yet still so far away. Tomorrow is our birthing class; maybe that will make it feel more urgent!